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Trudeau Defends Calling Payette ‘Excellent’ Amid Rideau Hall Harassment Probe

The Governor General faces workplace harassment allegations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference as he unveils plans for greater support for Black businesses, at HXOUSE in Toronto on Sept. 9, 2020.
CP/Cole Burston
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a press conference as he unveils plans for greater support for Black businesses, at HXOUSE in Toronto on Sept. 9, 2020.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed to Governor General Julie Payette’s resumé Wednesday when asked to explain why he recently called her performance in the role “excellent” amid a probe into workplace harassment allegations.

Payette is facing allegations of creating a toxic workplace environment at Rideau Hall, according to reporting by CBC News, including claims she yelled and publicly humiliated employees.

“The Governor General has a long and successful role as a scientist, as an astronaut,” Trudeau told reporters in Toronto. “We have engaged a third party reviewer to follow up on these serious allegations, and we will wait for the reviewer to do their work.”

That third party reviewer is Quintet Consulting Corp. The private Ottawa-based firm was hired by the Privy Council Office (PCO) to investigate workplace harassment allegations at Rideau Hall, promising a “thorough, independent, and impartial review.”

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, whose father, Roméo, served as governor general from 1995 to 1999, is overseeing the investigation. A final report is expected this fall, according to a PCO statement.

Watch: A timeline of Julie Payette’s controversies. Story continues below video:

The probe will involve both current Rideau Hall employees and those who left since Payette was appointed to the role in 2017 on Trudeau’s recommendation. The prime minister did not use an advisory committee set up by the previous Conservative government to make the vice-regal appointment.

Quintet was previously hired by the Senate in 2015 to investigate workplace harassment allegations in the office of former Toronto senator Don Meredith, who resigned three years ago. Its final report drove the Senate Ethics Office to launch an official inquiry that was completed last year after significant delays.

Prior to becoming Governor General, Payette was the Canadian Space Agency’s chief astronaut and completed two missions in space. She was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station.

Governor General Julie Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau look on during a swearing in ceremony following a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Aug. 18, 2020.
CP/Sean Kilpatrick
Governor General Julie Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau look on during a swearing in ceremony following a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Aug. 18, 2020.

Because the Governor General is appointed by the Queen on advice of the prime minister, REDFM Vancouver’s Harjinder Thind asked Trudeau during a radio interview last week if he had any plans to get the monarch involved on the matter.

“We have an excellent Governor General right now and I think, on top of the COVID crisis, nobody is looking at any constitutional crises,” the prime minister responded.

Days after CBC News’ original story was published in July, Rideau Hall released a statement citing “no formal complaint” has been received by its human resources department since the start of Payette’s term.

“We deeply regret this reporting, which is in stark contrast to the reality of working at the OSGG, and obscures the important work done by our dedicated staff in honouring, representing, and showcasing Canadians,” the statement read.

Payette tweeted in July that she was “committed to ensuring that every employee who works at Rideau Hall enjoys a secure and healthy work environment at all times and under all circumstances.”

With files from Ryan Maloney

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